Sunday, April 13, 2008

Big Yellow Corn Bread

I am a corn freak. I even had a cat that was a corn freak. He was an orange tabby stray we picked up because he rubbed noses with our dogs and was unafraid. We adopted him and named him OJ. As it turned out, he was really a dog in a cat's body. OJ would grab corn on the cob right out of the pot when we weren't looking and jump off the kitchen counter with a cob in his mouth. He would brazenly reach in and eat corn chips right out of the bag! Anything made from corn he would go wild over. On the other hand, our other cat Powie (named after Powhaten Street in Providence, where we found her as a stray kitten) loved raw kale. Powie was really a cat in a cat's body, but her fur was silky like a bunny. Go figure.

I love baking with cornmeal, and especially love pancakes with cornmeal and apples. The other day I made a big yellow cornbread in my gigantic cast-iron skillet. At the last minute I added four chopped-up Macintosh apples to the batter, keeping the red skins on. It came out great! The moist apples countered the dryness of the cornbread and added a pleasant texture, color, and sweetness. Then today I tried it again, but I had no apples so I used one gigantic chopped-up white onion. The cornbread was equally good with my morning coffee. Remember, onions get sweet when they cook.

The Clowning Arts

I first met David Shiner while he was performing for the Broadway show Fool Moon. My old pals from my North Carolina days, the Red Clay Ramblers, provided the music. David designed and directed a show for Cirque du Soleil called Kooza, which is showing in Hartford until the end of the month. This quote is from the website.

As a clown, your main responsibility is to be the biggest fool you can possibly be. You're an idiot, you're stupid and brainless, a misfit that's trying to fit in but always falls flat on your face. That makes us laugh, because life isn't easy, it's a struggle, and there's great beauty, great tragedy and suffering, and that's what the clown communicates. The more aware a clown is of the suffering of others and of his own suffering, the more laughter he can create.

     - David Shiner

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Quotes of the Day

An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner
of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success, etc.

     - Henri Matisse

One of the many distinctions between celebrity and hero is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society.

     - Joseph Campbell, as told to Bill Moyers
       in The Power of Myth

I've been digging stones out of my heart such a long time, biting into each one to make sure I'm not throwing away gold.

     - Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Thirteen Mexicans

Music is a release from the tyranny of conscious thought.

     - Kevin Burke

Teaching in the Arts: A Muscular Metaphor

My dear friend Susan is a muscular therapist by trade, and she tells me that as people get their bodies worked on, their emotional "stuff" comes up. She explains that emotions live tucked into the body pains; shoulders, hips, face muscles, the body carries it all. These knots get loosened when Susan works on them, and the physical and emotional pain is released. She can't ignore or abandon what surfaces from her clients as she helps release the pain in their muscles. This emotional element is part of her work, whether she wants it or not, and sometimes what surfaces from a body is a torrent of grief, or anger.

This also happens to anyone painting, drawing, writing, acting, etc. The emotional stuff surfaces like rocks in the spring soil. We have to attend to it, and the creative and emotional work is all part of the whole person living, of a human who is building and making a life. Of course when our emotions are agitated and the drama is loud within ourselves, demanding all of our attention like a roomful of screaming infants being vaccinated, it can distract us from seeing that other people need healing too. This is why we must try to be clear and honest in our work, to brave the pain, so we can be accurate reflectors for those around us trying to see themselves through our help and example.

For me, teaching in the arts means helping kids develop life-long emotional rescue tools, so they can go to their notebooks and sketchbooks and write and draw to release their pain and to heal. They are struggling with more than we can even imagine; empowerment through these tools of expression is the best thing we can give them. An expressive society is a healthy society.

Being a Ziti

I call it being a ziti
when you let all the light
and love
and ideas
flow through you
and you are the channel,
you are not the sauce
or the noodle,
just the space the macaroni makes.


Last week Angel Quinonez was my guest at Beacon. He is an amazing painter and tattoo artist. He told the class that he grew up in Central Falls, getting in and out of trouble. He got a scholarship to Brown University and majored in religion and philosophy. He supported himself doing tattoos. Now he works at the AS220 Broad Street Studios and teaches at the juvenile training school. I wanted my boys especially to meet him, and they were enthralled! After class the principal offered Angel a free space for teaching after-school art at Beacon. It was an inspiring day for all of us! Angel loved Beacon and said it was the best reception he'd gotten! Good karma sparks all around!

The Winter Cactus

Forgive me that I am often so sad in April and May and June. I am a strange woman, one who blooms in winter, happiest with frozen ground. I am a winter cactus, a bright flower with thorns! A fire-and-ice picnic is my joy: being outside under the winter stars in December, playing instruments around an open hearth by the woods on the longest night!

Breathing in April, May, and June is often hard for me. The molds and mushrooms torment my neurotransmitters into a deep melancholia. I carry the canister of chemicals to open my lungs lest they shut down leaving me breathless. While the teens are kissing in the park, dancing in summer shorts and dresses, I am gloomy, wishing for the winter ice storms to return. But I can still swim the icy ponds in spring, before they warm up!